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How to Recession Proof Your Photography Business

Updated June 29th, 2022 – Editor’s Note: As we stare down skyrocketing inflation, increased costs of doing business, and many other hurdles, being able to create a recession proof photography business is becoming even more important than when I wrote this article originally at the beginning of COVID. I decided to come back and revisit the topic and update the article with more information.

Global markets have been soaring for years, bringing with them concerns of a ‘correction’. With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down supply chains, rising inflation, and other hallmarks of a global economic downturn, what can you do to recession proof your photography business?

recession proof photography video business

I’m sure you like to think of yourself as a creative artist, but, in terms of getting paid, most photographers and video professionals are technically in the service industry. We are hired by individuals or companies to perform the service of creating visual media, whether that be taking wedding photos or producing branded video content.

And, when a recession strikes, the service industry always takes a hit. Everyone, from luxury brands to low cost service providers, suffers, but they suffer differently.

Who gets hurt the most?

The businesses in the middle of the market are the ones that suffer the most in a recession.

People who regularly buy from a luxury brand will continue to go with a luxury brand even during a recession. Those luxury brands might slightly lower their prices to reflect the economic concerns and give people a ‘deal’. Or they might even raise their prices since there may be a higher demand for their commodities.

And obviously when money is tight, people will be shopping for a bargain. So low-end businesses in the market will be getting a lot of calls. Photo and video businesses who market themselves only based on price, which is not something I would suggest, should focus solely on their pricing during the recession.

If you’re in the middle of market, you need to start finding a way to distinguish yourself beyond just your price. What does this mean? Well, you need to find out what it is that you offer your clients that nobody else does.

That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a product or service that exists nowhere else, it could be that you just do something better than all the rest or you provide the highest quality product of that type in your market.

Once you figure out what it is that differentiates you from the rest of your market, you need to be using it in all of your marketing and client communications. Otherwise, you’re going to fade into the grey area of the middle of the pack and your business will suffer.

Five Ways to Prepare Your Photography or Video Business for a Recession

people taking pictures of vintage cameras
Photo by Jordan Benton on

Once you’ve found your place in the market and figured out how to communicate your value to potential clients during an economic downturn, now you have to prepare your business for less money coming in the door.

Diversify Your Revenue Streams

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a tendency for photographers to be ULTRA niche, or, if they did do more than one style of photography they were very closely related. For example, wedding and portrait photographer always had some crossover but there were still photographers who ONLY did weddings.

During the pandemic, photographers had to find other ways to make money and now that there is a looming recession, finding additional revenue streams is VERY important.

Adding another type of photography to your services can help make up for shortfalls in your main area of business. It doesn’t have to be difficult either. The skills that make you a great wedding photographer can also make you a good corporate event photographer, or even a food photographer! You just need to understand the needs of your different client types.

Don’t Discount Prices – Add Value

It can be very easy to feel that you need to lower your prices when a recession hits. However, in my experience, it will be harder to raise your rates again when the economy turns back around. My suggestion is that if your pricing was in a good place already, don’t change it.

What you might consider doing is adding value to your photography packages. Perhaps that means more retouched images in a portrait session, or a free slideshow with wedding coverage. Find items that don’t have a prohibitive cost to you in running your business that you can add in to give potential clients the feeling that they are getting more for their money.

These items can then be removed later on when the economy turns around and you can start charging for them.

Pay Off Your Business Debt!

If you owe money on a credit card or a business loan, paying that off, whether it is $250 a month or $500, is going to be more of a challenge when your cash flow starts to slow down.

Pay off as much as you can now so you’re not racking up interest charges.

Make Sure You Have a Rainy Day Fund

The general rule of thumb is that you should have 3 months worth of expenses set aside just in case things take a turn for the worse. But, every business and every business owner is different.

Whatever the case is, you should be putting away as much money as you can in case business dries up for a bit. A good idea would be to put aside some of the money you save from eliminating unnecessary expenses…

eliminating unnecessary expenses to recession proof your photography business
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses

It’s time to really think about what you’re spending your money on. If you can find ways to cut back on spending, it frees up your cash for other expenses. Plus, it gets you in the habit of getting by while spending less money.

Here are some expenses to consider cutting back on:

Subscription Services

Take a look at those $5 and $10 a month auto-pay subscriptions for software and figure out if you really even use them anymore.

Often times, these services fall through the cracks, we stop using them and completely forget we’re still paying for them.

New Equipment

Do you really need a new camera or lens? Okay, let me rephrase that. Are you still going to be able to conduct business without that new piece of equipment? If you can get by without it for a while, it’s probably better to hold off on any big equipment purchases. If you really need something for a project, you might consider renting instead.


Do you have a studio or meeting space? Do you use it frequently enough that it justifies the cost?

I’ve made the decision several times over my career to cut ties with a space rental (both studios and meeting spaces) because it just didn’t make sense to be laying out all that money every month.

Look into renting on an as needed basis instead of committing to a long term lease.


It’s time to really evaluate which avenues of your advertising and marketing are bringing in business. Consider how much you spend and how much you business you get back.

If it’s not working, STOP PAYING FOR IT!

Stop Outsourcing

As you tighten your purse strings, it may be time to start editing your own photos again instead of farming it out to another service. Especially if you have less jobs coming in, you’ll have more time to do the editing yourself and you can save that cash for other expenses.

Really Consider Your ROI

Think about the ROI (Return on Investment) of all your expenses. Are there places you can cut back or just cut out entirely? It’s good to go through your books regularly and evaluate these things, even if there isn’t a recession looming.

Use Downtime Productively

With an economic downturn, you might find yourself with more downtime than you normally have. You should use that time productively to better yourself and your business. Here are few ideas of ways to spend your downtime:

  • Hone your skills. Where could you stand to improve? Need to get better at lighting? Do your Photoshop skills need some work?
  • Revamp your portfolio or website
  • Consider your marketing materials and advertising – should you adjust how you’re presenting yourself to potential clients in light of the new economic situation? Should you be further differentiating yourself from others in your market?
  • Learn a new skill – take an online class or study up with some YouTube tutorials.
  • Add new revenue streams – additional types of photography or offerings might add new clients, or bring old clients back to hire you again!
  • Start stockpiling blog posts. Use the time to write a bunch of blog posts so that once you’re busy again, you don’t have to take time to write. You’ll already have a bunch of posts ready.

Will this information help you develop a recession proof photography business?

Are there other aspects of recession proofing you think I should have covered? Did you find this information helpful? Let me know on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok

You can also browse our archive of marketing and business articles or consider subscribing to our podcast!

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The Nerdy Photographer
The Nerdy Photographer

With more than a quarter century as a professional photographer, The Nerdy Photographer's goal is to spread knowledge and laughter throughout the photo industry. Please follow along on social media and subscribe to the podcast.

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